The chimp and I

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Just when I thought the germs had gone, my strength was back and the walking shoes were happy again, along comes another cold to set me back. I have never had a period like this since transplant and it is immensely frustrating. My new walking shoes are staring at me, tempting me to carry on regardless but the sensible side of my brain (not my chimp) is telling me to rest and recover.

It has given me some time to get some accommodation sorted and to make a start on some of the fundraising events. For those in South Essex, I have arranged a fundraising night at the Dog & Partridge on the A128 on the 2nd February 2017 @ 7.30pm.

I do need help securing accommodation so please rack your brains and think of anyone you may know who lives near the coastline of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. I am happy to couchsurf or even sleep on a floor so long as I get a roof over my head and an interesting person to meet and chat to.


So who is this chimp I mentioned earlier? I have lived with anxiety and depression all of my life. I have had long dark periods of my life where depression really took hold of me. Depression, to me, is an illness just like the cough and cold I am currently cursing.

The chimp comes from a brilliant book I read three years ago called “The Chimp Paradox” by Dr Steve Peters. He is a sports psychologist who has helped Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy and our immensely successful British cycling team. He has also worked with the snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan of recent years and helped him win three more world championships. His concept is simple and I bought into the ideas immediately.

chimp-picEssentially we have two parts of our brain, ourselves and a chimp. A squawking chimp that is more powerful than us. Our chimp can overpower us anytime and it does this to protect us from harm. However, we lose who we really are and how we want to act when the chimp takes over so we need to try to manage it and recognised when it is taking over.

An example is this. You are driving in the morning and a car pulls out in front of you. You toot, you swear, your drive closely and scream at the idiot. You arrive in work in a complete state, slam around and are short with co-workers. You may even be rude to your boss. Eventually, as the morning carries on you lose the anger and aggression and stop biting at people. Later that evening you are recalling the events of earlier in the morning to a friend, telling them how you were rude to everyone. Your friend says “Why did you let it get to you? It was just a selfish driver. There are plenty of them” and you reply “I don’t know why it annoyed me so much. The driver really wound me up and I couldn’t let it go”

What happened in that example is that the chimp overpowered you and it did so to protect you. Eventually the chimp went back to sleep and the real you came to the surface once more.

I used to hear voices of self-doubt all the time. “You’re such an idiot Kieran” or “You’re never going to be able to do that” or “You’re an ugly git” or “You look hideous with that beer gut” We all have these thoughts but I am now able to recognise when they are happening and I question whether this is me or the chimp talking. More often than not, it’s the chimp talking.

In the driver example, when the person got to work and was slamming around if they had asked themselves “is this the chimp talking?” they would have recognised that this was not how they want to be perceived by others and not how they want to act. When they realised this, they could have put the chimp to sleep a lot quicker.

By being able to take control of negative thoughts has enabled me to stay a lot more level headed for longer periods of time. When depression passes over me (and it will always continue to do so) I can now recognise the spiral of unhelpful comments in my head and work at putting my chimp to bed.

This method helps sportsmen and women achieve more by getting rid of all the negative comments such as “am I good enough for a gold medal?” and keeping them focused on what exactly they’re are supposed to be doing. We all are bombarded, night and day with self-doubt and distractions so for me, being able to say to myself ‘is this me or is this my chimp?’ seems to keep me more positive nowadays.

So I will be walking a chimp around the coast of Britain and if I am heard screaming “CHIMP, be quiet” on a beach somewhere, you’ll know I am battling. I am aware there are going to be many, many battles ahead and my chimp is already questioning the whole trip but I know that deep down this is something I want to achieve and chimp will be have to be managed on a daily if not hourly basis.

“Round Britain with a Chimp” – it’s got a ring to it hasn’t it? 

Kieran xx


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